Rugby AU head office locked down as Sevens pair tested for COVID-19

Super W
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Two members of the Australian Sevens program have been tested for coronavirus, forcing Rugby Australia's head officeto close for two days for an intensive clean.

Rugby Australia confirmed on Sunday evening that two squad members had displayed symptoms associated with the virus over the weekend and were in self-isolation.

"As a precautionary measure, Rugby Australia headquarters has been closed for two days for an intensive clean," the statement read.

"All administrative staff have been advised to work from home, and the Australian Men’s and Women’s Sevens teams will not attend the facility on Monday or Tuesday.

"Rugby Australia has implemented a stringent policy with regards to any player or staff member that experiences symptoms associated with the virus.

"The policy concerns any person who starts to exhibit signs and symptoms of the virus that has recently travelled overseas to any country or has been in direct contact with someone known to have the virus.

"The person must self-isolate for 14 days and be tested for COVID-19."

The results of the tests are expected to be known within 72 hours.

The tests follow that of a Waratahs Super W player last week that came back negative.

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Brumbies women’s coach Adam Butt says the Super W competition has a major opportunity next weekend as more and more sporting events are cancelled or postponed.

Super Rugby and Global Rapid Rugby have both been suspended indefinitely as of Sunday, while there is also a cloud over club rugby competitions scheduled to start in coming weeks after the Federal Government's decision to ban non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people to limit the spread of coronavirus.

At the time of writing, the Super W playoff, to be played in Queensland between the Reds and Brumbies, and the grand final are set to be behind closed doors but still broadcast.

That means that the women’s competition could be the only top flight rugby available for Australian fans to watch.

“It's a massive opportunity. If we're the only game on, we're the only sport to watch, that'd be great and that's up to us to bring a really good product and get people interested,” Butt said.

“It's an opportunity, we don't know whether we're playing next week or what's happening, if it's postponed or whatever.

“It's an hour to hour thing and we'll just go about our business as usual and prepare to play next week and whatever happens happens.”

Cleaners were disinfecting GIO Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyQueensland coach Moana Virtue echoed Butt’s thoughts, still expecting every possible scenario as they look towards the playoffs.

“We have to still prepare for the semi, so we'll still be training and all that sort of stuff, so nothing will change," she said.

Australia’s Super Rugby clubs and Global Rapid Rugby organisers were in meetings on Sunday in the wake of SANZAAR’s decision to suspend Super Rugby for the “foreseeable future” beyond Sunday night.

Global Rapid Rugby CEO Mark Evans confirmed his competition would follow Super Rugby's lead in suspending its competition after the opening round this weekend.

“Travel, quarantine and public health restrictions have provided us with no option but to halt the inaugural Global Rapid Rugby season for the imminent future," he said.

“The sporting environment has been turned upside down by the current worldwide health crisis.

“It’s enormously disappointing to have to suspend the competition just one round into the season, however the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and fans are always our number one priority.

“We will explore all avenues as we seek to evolve the competition to meet the difficult circumstances we all now find ourselves in.

"One thing that has not changed is our commitment to the development of rugby in the Asia-Pacific region and we look forward to getting back on the park and building on what Global Rapid Rugby has achieved so far."

It is understood there were potential alternatives being discussed that wouldn’t contravene the government edicts but those discussions are believed to be still in their infancy. 

ARL chairman Peter V’landys has been vocal about the NRL’s desire to for government assistance if the competition is shut down and rugby is believed to be considering a similar request with all teams set to take a revenue hit even if alternative matches without fans are able to be arranged.

It’s not just Super Rugby that could be affected by this - club rugby matches and even training sessions are under a cloud given the number of people that go in and out of venues even during a weeknight session.

Queensland's Premier Rugby competition would be the first premier grade competition to be affected, set to kick off on March 21, with the potential for the start of the season to be pushed back.

Rugby Australia is still expected to continue with its broadcast deal plans, progressing to the offer stage in the coming week despite the disruptions.

The national body had hoped to finalise a new deal by the March 30 AGM, before the escalation of fears around coronavirus and the suspension of Super Rugby eventuated.